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Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Little Angel

I made a little angel years ago for our family Christmas tree. This was when we still had a car, and my son (then in his early teens) and I would drive to a Christmas tree farm northeast of Toronto and walk through the cultivated wilderness to search for a whopper of a tree to cut down. We would secure it to the top of the car with bungee cords and as we drove home the snow would begin to fall and it would begin to feel a lot like Christmas.


For many years this angel that I made sat on the tip-top of the central branch of those big trees. Her dress, of stiff, cream-colored satin, is trimmed with gold. And now she fits the top of my non-tree, which I delineate with lights only. No tree. No needles. No watering. Just little bright lights that fall from the ceiling to the corners of a board, making a stylized Christmas tree shape. If I want the smell, I can diffuse a little pine or spruce essential oil, but I usually forget to do that. From outside the house, you really think that you see the branches of a tree hiding there among the lights.


For my angel's hair I made a lot of French knots, the only embroidery stitch I can call up at will. Other stitches have to be researched and followed slavishly. I love to make French knots. The lengthened version of the French knot is called the bullion stitch, but it is easier to embroider the former than the latter.


What more can I tell you about my angel? Are angels Christian, or can they be claimed by anyone? Whether you believe in nature spirits or sky gods or the Great Feminine—surely angels transcend the limits of the human imagination. An angel will arrive to help you out even if you don't go to an approved place of worship on Sunday (or any other day). Angels will help you no matter what you believe. They're here to help.


That's the New Age view, to which I sometimes subscribe. On the other hand, that might be a sanitized, namby-pamby view of angels, since I know they can also be fierce and demanding and uncompromising. They can ask things of us that we may not want to give.


I'll keep fierce angels in mind, and I'll hope that I can have a couple working on my behalf. But for Christmas trees I'll continue to use my benign little white satin angel with her French-knot hair and her gold pipe-cleaner halo.


Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor   

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Morning at Grenadier Pond

The curtain of drooping willows parts at my touch, and I move from the path, with its walkers and joggers (yes, even at this pre-dawn hour) into the presence of still water.


The mist rises from the little lake, signifying a disparity between air temperature and water temperature. But I prefer to see the mist as a symbolic veil over reality rather than as the inevitable physical result of the meeting of two different temperatures.


As I lower myself on to a patch of low weeds—dew be damned—I can see the crescent moon sliding toward the western horizon. It gives less light than the gradually whitening eastern sky, but focusing on that constantly mutating moon begins to soothe my mind.



Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I saw an anonymous black bird on a postcard, and it brought to my mind the death of the crows. A plague has taken away my crows, who always greeted me as I left the house. Always a caw or two, or a full raucous greeting, and I'd say, "Hi, guys!"


They'd perch, three or four at a time, in the tree across the street until I was safely on my way, then go on about their own crow business: hunting food, doing some group-think activity, or practicing their shape-shifting.


In Deepak Chopra's novel MERLIN, the crows play a huge role, and Chopra makes it so clear how they think as one, how it is impossible (or nearly so, for on this hinges part of the story) to be a crow and to be an individual thinker. The group is all.


Well, that doesn't appeal much to me, though I don't think our modern, individualist societies give us much to be proud of. But that's the biggest stumbling block for me: to be one (make me one with everything, as the Buddhist said to the hotdog vendor)—to be one with everything. And then where am I in all this? Where am I, this hard-won I? This I who lives and feels and cries and laughs. Who will know me, who will appreciate me—me!—when I am one with everything?


The crows have disappeared this year. We can only hope that this plague that has destroyed them is short-lived. I hope that the virus will die out, and within a year or two, those noisy, intelligent birds will be back again, protecting, warning, entertaining us from the tops of trees.


On a friend's island, years ago, I was singing, alone by the little lagoon. And as I started my last song (for I was tired and ready to rejoin company) I saw three crows fly to the tip of a tall, half-dead pine tree. They perched there, silent and unmoving, until I finished my song. And then, as one (make me one with everything), they flew—swiftly, swiftly—into the distant blue sky over Georgian Bay. They disappeared so quickly I wondered if I had even seen them at all. But I had.


Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor

Sunday, April 3, 2011


I've been reading Brad Smith lately. He's been called (maybe by his own publicist) a Canadian Elmore Leonard, and this is true. His books are funny, smart, full of off-the-wall characters, and they usually involve a scam.


He always has a John-Wayne-type hero, the guy who doesn't care much about money and who is at home in the physical world (he can roof his own house, including creating the beams and rafters instead of using those pre-constructed roof struts). His heroes are the last whole men. They're like Robert Parker's Spencer but not as smart-mouthed.


Smith's villains have made me think. His characters are the people he meets in dingy bars and cheap motels. Well, I don't ever meet people in dingy bars or cheap motels because I never frequent either of those places. Therefore, I don't have access to villains. So I began to search for the villains in my own life. A sorrier crew it would be hard to imagine, yet they are the only villains I come across. Here they are:


The people who don't respond to the good-citizen slogan of "Be nice! Clear your ice!" All winter long I pick my way carefully across the sidewalk frontage of frozen lumps and humps, part of me desperate to avoid falling, another part of me planning the lawsuit if I do. This is laziness and thoughtlessness as villainy.


The people who let their cars idle, filling our city air with even more particulates for us to inhale. At 6:45 one morning recently in High Park I came across an empty car, lights on and motor running. The owner was nowhere in sight but, since the car was parked by the entrance to the off-leash area, I assume he was walking his dog. I was sorely tempted to get in the car and drive it 50 yards down the road, just to give him a scare. I didn't, but real car thieves are less reluctant. (There is apparently a thriving trade in early-morning stolen cars. The thief and his accomplice drive to the suburbs. They circle the streets until they spot yet another shiny SUV spewing its poisonous exhaust into the air so that the owner will be able to enjoy the comfort of a pre-warmed car. The thief just hops into the unlocked car left running for him, and he drives it off to the chop shop.)


The people who block subway doors so that passengers can't get out. These people are usually just ignorant and thoughtless, wanting to be the first ones to enter the car. But some blockers are more deliberate. My husband recently shared the subway car for six stops with a short, fat man who deliberately stood in the middle of the doorway at each stop, making it almost impossible for riders to get on or off through that door. At first it might have looked accidental, just one more thoughtless person. But the man moved from one side of the subway car to the other, depending on which side the door would be opening onto. And he smirked as he blocked the way. What grudge against the world was this man acting out?


My current villains are all urban and all relatively harmless. I'm going to have to apply some serious imaginative effort to create villains to people my next mystery novel. Or just start hanging out at dingy bars and cheap motels.



Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor